Q: When I am testing a trumpet, what exactly am I testing for?
I think that
- sound (what is the quality and timbre of the sound? is it the same throughout the range?)
- response (how quickly does the horn do what I want it to do?) and
- intonation (does the horn play in tune?)
are the primary criteria for choosing a trumpet. These are all quite subjective, which is why there are lots of different trumpets on the market. Putting the criteria in a hierarchy is almost as subjective. Different folks, given the requirements of the music they play and their tastes, rank those criteria differently.
Resistance, another criterion for choosing a trumpet, is equally subjective and even more complex. Some folks like the feeling of "blowing against" something and favor medium bored horns and mouthpieces with smaller bores; others prefer the feeling of "blowing through" the horn and prefer medium large or large bore horns and mouthpieces with enlarged bores. Where that resistance comes from is also very complex. Some folks who play small mouthpieces with small bores like to play large bore horns because they get all the resistance they want from their chops and the mouthpiece. Others may play more open mouthpieces and "need" to get the resistance from the horn. In addition, the following all have some effect on resistance: the size of one's oral cavity, the size and shape of the lip aperture, the mouthpiece cup diameter, shape, depth and volume, the mouthpiece bore size, the size and shape of the backbore, the gap between mouthpiece and leadpipe, the taper of the leadpipe, the weight of the materials, the shape of the tuning slide, the location and weight of the bracing, the number of braces, the bore size of the trumpet, and so forth. While the majority of players prefer at least medium large bore horns, Bobby Shew and John Faddis are evidence of why they continue to make medium bored horns.
Go out and play a bunch of horns. The one that sounds the best, feels the best, and you can afford--that is the one to buy.
© 1999 by James F. Donaldson
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